Thursday, 20 October 2011


Ravenwood by Andrew Peters (Chicken House) 
PB RRP $16.99 
ISBN 9781906427467
Reviewed by Dawn Meredith

From page one I was hooked, immersed into the truly unique world of Arborium, in the treetops of ancient forests, where wood means life and Earth means certain death. The whiff of Arthurian quest is definitely appealing as Arktorius Malikum, a teenage plumber of mysterious heritage, rises to champion.

The evil dendran Fenestra is determined to destroy Arborium, the last haven for those loyal to King Quercus. There is danger at every turn and if not for his unlikely ally, Mucum, Ark would not succeed. 

The dark corners of a society completely made of wood, with its dangers and frailties is explored beautifully in this book. Friendship, betrayal and heroism all prevail alongside a tenderhearted regard for family. There are many solid messages in this story, though they are never thrust upon the reader. The interplay between Ark and his narcissistic nemesis, Petronius works well. Interestingly, Peters gently steers the reader towards an understanding and tolerance of what makes someone choose the darker path, in this case the desperate desire to please a parent. Ark himself triumphs on a personal level too as he battles against prejudice of those who live below ground, the rootshooters, in the immensely intriguing world of the giant tree root systems.

My favourite bits included the revelations of the Raven Queen Corwenna, Mucum’s awkward romance with the pale, tall, pragmatic rootshooter Florence, and Peters’ skill with descriptive language:

With a wingspan as wide as a roof and eyes that glittered like diamonds, a huge raven came soaring from the darkness, drawn by the perfume of lifeblood, her claws ready to take the injured prey as it stood defeated and defenceless.

Peters has a particular talent for inventing dialects which add a richness to his characterization: Say’s Flo to the boys, “Yow lot from up top be somewhat little. Yow needs to get some good grub down. Then yow might grows a bit, and catch moi up, warhh?” There’s fun invented swear words too: “What the holly are you doing here?” and terms such as make-be-leaf, squit-shoveller, acorn-nutters are a delight.

Ark’s quest becomes a struggle to warn the king of the impending threat to the kingdom whilst trying to elude capture and death by malevolent forces. At the back of his mind is always the nagging thought that he doesn’t quite belong, despite a loving family, that his destiny is determined by an another. Can a lowly sewage worker be anything other than despised? Is truth really the greatest weapon? Will the special skills he has inherited from his biological mother be enough to save them all?

Dawn Meredith writes from the Blue Mountains and was awarded a May Gibbs Fellowship in 2011. Her brand new book, The Anything Shop was released in October. You can follow her exploits at 

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